Brock Vergakis and Debbie Hummel / The Associated Press – 2006-08-31 23:23:29
SALT LAKE CITY (August 31, 2006) — Thousands of demonstrators gathered at City Hall on Wednesday in protest of President Bush’s policies — one day before he [spoke] to the American Legion’s national convention here.
Led by Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, protesters marched from City Hall to the federal building to present a symbolic indictment against Bush, Congress and the president’s administration, alleging such “crimes” as failure to uphold the Constitution, abuse of power and failure to promote the general welfare of Americans.
“Our children and later generations will pay the price of the lies, the violence, the cruelty, the incompetence and the inhumanity of the Bush administration and the lackey Congress that has so cowardly abrogated its responsibility and authority under our checks-and-balances system of government,” Anderson said.
The protests came a day after two senior members of the Republican administration, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, addressed Legionnaires here.Rumsfeld likened critics of the US war strategy to those who tried to appease the Nazis.
Rumsfeld and Rice both emphasized that America is safer because it is fighting terrorists in Iraq rather than at home as the nation approaches the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Most of Anderson’s 35-minute speech focused on criticizing the Bush administration for its initial invasion of Iraq and did not address what the administration’s current policy should be, only insisting that Bush begin telling the truth.
The crowd frequently chanted “Rocky” as it held posters that said among other things: “Iraq: Another Vietnam”, “Stop Israeli Terrorism” and “We protest because we’re patriotic.”
Anderson and protest organizers had come under fire from Republicans for protesting during Bush’s visit, with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, apologizing to the Legion for the protests. The state Republican Party also ran radio advertisements encouraging Utah residents to leave messages with the mayor expressing their displeasure.
“A patriot does not tell people who are intensely concerned about their country to just sit down and be quiet; to refrain from speaking out in the name of politeness or for the sake of being a good host; to show slavish, blind obedience and deference to a dishonest, warmongering, human-rights violating president,” said Anderson.
Many protesters also called Bush a racist and advocated that the country abandon capitalism in favor of socialism.
But the focus was on the war in Iraq.
Carl Brown, 60, held a sign saying “Army veterans against the war.”
“People who oppose the war and are demonstrating shouldn’t be looked down on as weirdos and wackos and unpatriotic,” Brown said. The certified public accountant said he thinks troops should gradually come home over the next six months to a year.
As throngs of protesters marched down State Street, the main thoroughfare through the Salt Lake valley, many cars honked their horns in support and crowds gathered on sidewalks to cheer the protesters on.
But Kim Watson of West Jordan followed protesters with a bull horn saying Anderson is a liar and that America is doing the right thing in Iraq.
“It’s about protecting our way of life for future generations so my kid doesn’t have to worry about going into a Pizza Hut one day and worry about being blown up like they do in Israel,” she said.
Several blocks away at Salt Lake City’s Liberty Park, a “Freedom Rally” was held. There, the crowd numbering in the hundreds, many of them Legionnaires, were rallying in support of US troops.
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff spoke to those gathered, saying he felt he had to speak out against what Anderson was doing blocks away at the anti-war protest.
Shurtleff said it was disrespectful for Anderson to be speaking out against the war on the same day a Marine from Salt Lake was being buried. A funeral was Wednesday for Cpl. Adam A. Galvez, 21, who was killed in Iraq on Aug. 20.
“Your right to raise your fist in protest stops at the mahogany casket (of Galvez),” Shurtleff said. “Rocky, your protests in search of national recognition will leave you destitute and hungry.”
Wednesday’s day of protest included a total of six permitted rallies in the city. Most gatherings were designed to express support for American troops or opposition the Iraq war. This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page A1.
Date: Thu, 31 Aug 2006 09:57:33 -0700 To: Laura X
American Legion clashes with Salt Lake City’s anti-war mayor; mayor organizes protest By Associated Press Wednesday, August 30, 2006 – Updated: 04:50 PM EST
SALT LAKE CITY – The American Legion opened its national convention in Salt Lake City with high hopes the gathering would help “unite America” behind the war in Iraq. Instead, the veterans have found themselves in a fight with the city’s anti-war mayor. Mayor Rocky Anderson, a Democrat in a city that is considered liberal by heavily Republican Utah’s standards, has accused the Bush administration of lying about the rationale for war. He has called President Bush a “complete disaster.” And on Wednesday, he organized a big protest rally a few blocks from the Salt Palace Convention Center, just hours before Bush’s arrival here for an address to the American Legion. “No more God-is-on-our-side religious nonsense,” Anderson said at the rally, absorbing waves of cheers and applause from the thousands of protesters as he called Bush a “dishonest, war-mongering, human-rights violating president.” The American Legion was so offended by Anderson’s protest plans that it refused to extend the customary invitation to the host city’s mayor to deliver the welcoming address. “Rocky ought to sit behind his desk and leave the rest of the world alone. I wouldn’t dream of doing things like this,” said Legionnaire Lynn Beckstead, 71, of West Valley City. “If you don’t like Bush, fine, but respect the office. This is a very conservative state, sweet and friendly. That’s not sweet.” Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, who is also a Democrat but has said little about the war, was mildly booed Tuesday when he gave the welcoming speech, apparently because some Legionnaires thought he was Anderson. Anderson seems to savor the controversy, even inviting peace activist Cindy Sheehan to Salt Lake City for the protest. She dropped out, citing health reasons. When some Legionnaires said convention attendance would drop because of the mayor, Anderson said it was “very strange” that free speech would discourage people. At least 12,000 veterans are at the convention. Inside the Salt Palace this week, the stage has been dominated by the Bush administration’s most senior and powerful members. Speaking to a friendly audience, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended their war policies Tuesday, and the president will give a speech on Thursday. Rumsfeld said the world faces “a new type of fascism” and likened critics of the Bush administration’s war strategy to those who tried to appease the Nazis in the 1930s. “Can we truly afford to believe that somehow, some way, vicious extremists can be appeased?” he asked. The Legion went on record in 2005 as saying it “fully supports” Bush in the “global war on terrorism.” The Veterans of Foreign Wars, which is meeting in Reno, Nev., this week, has a similar stance. Together they have 5 million members. The Legion has no anti-war speakers at its convention and no nationally prominent Democrats. Rep. Lane Evans, an Illinois Democrat who voted against the war in 2002 but is known for his work on behalf of veterans, was supposed to appear Wednesday but canceled, citing health reasons. “We’re not going to invite Cindy Sheehan or Rocky Anderson to speak to our convention. We’re trying to unite America,” said Legion National Commander Thomas Bock, 59, of Aurora, Colo., who has a son in the Air Force. He said he has a “real problem” with people who claim to support the troops but oppose the war. “What we don’t want to do is open our stage for public debate,” Bock said. “It’s our convention. We have common beliefs. Our membership has voted unanimously to stand behind our troops.” Some Legionnaires said they would welcome other voices. “You’d be an idiot to just listen to one side,” said Luis Diaz, 54, a Navy veteran from San Leandro, Calif. He said it is a “misuse of US troops” to be in Iraq after learning there were no weapons of mass destruction. Others said the convention should not be turned into a stage for diverse political voices. “We get the other side in the daily press,” said Bernard Olson, 72, a Legionnaire from Northfield, Wis.
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